Spring is here. With spring comes the opportunity to get out and enjoy activities put on hold throughout the cold winter months. Here in Northwest Arkansas that means, among other things, getting out into the Ozarks. We are blessed to have some wonderful non-profits located here working with Veterans, providing outdoor opportunities for free. Outdoor activities give Veterans a chance to connect with other Veterans. Being outside in nature can also help with PTSD and depression.
According to their webpage, Heroes on the Water is a non-profit which provides no-cost therapeutic kayak fishing experiences to veterans, first responders, active duty military members and their families. I have been out on the water with the Northwest Arkansas chapter and these people do an awesome job taking care of Vets. They provide the kayaks, life jackets, fishing poles and gear needed to enjoy a pleasant few hours on one of the many area lakes in this area. Watch their Facebook page for information on where they will be over the summer and join this great team of volunteers for some much needed relaxation.
Warhorse Legacy Foundation is the only NW Arkansas nonprofit Veteran’s organization which is dedicated to horsemanship. The Foundation is located at Warhorse Ranch in Winslow and provides equine programs, recreational activities, and education and networking opportunities. All of the programs are offered to Veterans and their families free of charge. There are also many opportunities for Veterans to volunteer at the ranch, helping in different ways to assist in the upkeep of the facilities and animals.
PHWFF uses fly fishing along with education and outings to help with the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled Active Military Members and Veterans. They rely on partnerships with Fly Fishers International, Trout Unlimited, and independent fly fishing clubs to conduct their program across the nation at DOD and Department of Veteran’s Affairs facilities across the country. In NW Arkansas, they can be reached through the contact form on their website, or by emailing one of the coordinators in NWA, also found on the PHWFF website.
If fishing or working with horses are not your thing, there are many other activities in NW Arkansas which may be appealing. Listed below are just a few of the opportunities you will find in the Northwest section of the Natural State.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a FREE museum (for most exhibits) located in Bentonville. The museum includes 120 acres with sculpture and walking trails. The museum includes a permanent art collection and features visiting art exhibits from around the country that may require a fee to access.
Floating Area Rivers
Some of the most peaceful outdoor activities take place on the beautiful rivers of Arkansas. Northwest and North Central Arkansas is blessed with an abundance of areas to relax and enjoy floating a river. The Buffalo National River was designated as a National River in 1972 and remains one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states, flowing freely for 135 miles. The river is famous for both its beauty and its accessibility. Visitors can picnic, camp, fish, swim, and take part in other park activities.
Floating the river in canoes or, more recently, in kayaks, has long been a favorite activity of people in Arkansas and across the nation. The river is generally peaceful to float though the ease depends on the water level. Always check with competent park authorities before getting in the river, but if you are looking for a quite peaceful day there are few things better than a leisurely float down the Buffalo.
Northwest Arkansas has four of the ten largest cities in the state. However, it also has dozens of hiking trails through the beautiful forests of the Ozark Mountains. Trails range from several half mile trails to the Ozark Highland Trail at nearly 300 miles (currently). When the OHT is finished, it will stretch 320 miles from Lake Fort Smith State Park across northern Arkansas to Lake Norfork.
Whatever your fitness level, there are trails in Northwest Arkansas that you will find enjoyable. Spring is the perfect time to get out and enjoy nature. There are several apps for Android or iPhones including All Trails, Gaia GPS, and Hiking Project to name a few.
Northwest Arkansas has an incredible biking trails including the Oz Trails, a collection of over 400 miles of singletrack. Bentonville and Fayetteville are Ride Centers with the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Northwest Arkansas received designation as the first-ever Regional Ride Center in the nation. If you enjoy riding, grab a bicycle helmet and some water and hit the trails!
Whatever the outdoor activities you enjoy, chances are there is somewhere in Northwest Arkansas you can enjoy it. As it warms up, get out, meet some other Veterans, and enjoy this beautiful place we call home!